[FFML] Sic Semper Morituri Chapter 56 - One Throw of The Dice Part 1 of 3

Daniel Jess Gibson dan_s.comments at att.net
Mon Jun 23 17:28:07 PDT 2008


[Ranma][NGE][HPL][AMG][Fusion][Fanfic] Sic Semper Morituri
Chapter 56 - One Throw of The Dice

Disclaimer:
I do not own any of the characters from Ranma 1 / 2, Neon Genesis
Evangelion, Ah My Goddess, or the Lovecraft Cycle involved in
these stories.

C&C, MSTs are welcome
E-mail: dan_s.comments at comcast.net or dan_s.comments at att.net
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pe/Sic-Semper-Morituri
(these are the original versions)

What has gone before:
      Admiral Adams and Doctor Akagi learn that the faster advance
of their carrier battle group might be needed.
      Nabiki and Ritsuko have a heart-to-heart to discover why
Nabiki has felt unworthy.  Ranma and Ranko have a heart-to-heart
about what each one truly wants.
      Nabiki and Jeff discuss their new position as half of
Chaugnar Faugn, and how to best use it.  Jeff begins teaching her
how to use her powers, control is the key, Nabiki has power in
abundance.
      Hiro has gotten General Tembris and SEELE their desire, and
has learned that SEELE is planning to move against the pilots.
Later he reveals all he knows, and discovers that Simson already
knew what Hiro was.
      Kaji discovers the details of Gendo's secret plan, and even
he can't believe what he learned.
      Asuka begins developing her own plans, after a discussion
with Commander Ikari.  Later enlisting Shinji to assist her.
      NERV's Official but Unwritten Rules begin to be compiled.
      Maya begins teaching the Marines new tactics to combat their
Mythos enemies.  Ranma begins teaching Rei the Chestnut Fist, Rei
of course modifies the regimen for efficiency, after she
practically dragged all the secrets and nuances from Ranma.  In
repayment, Rei gives Ranma another lesson in using guns.
      Nabiki, Belldandy and Jeff `discuss` the greater realities.
Neither Belldandy nor Nabiki are pleased by what they learn.
Nabiki and Jeff then rescue Megumi from the Curse of Chaugnar
Faugn, although Megumi's despair worries Nabiki.  Until a Great
Old One responds to Nabiki's wish for answers.
      The attack on the pilots injures Rei, Asuka charges in for
revenge with Hiro in pursuit, Mirei draws her father's people in
to the battle while Ranma and Sammi are drawn into a battle with
the Twins.  Rei takes out an EVA with Admiral Simson assisting
her.
      Sammi, the Neko-ken and finally Unit 00 wound then kill the
Twins.  Rei discovers that it successfully summoned another foe.
Both of the injured, the Neko-Ken and Rei, curl up with Asuka.
Once Ranma reemerges, he takes to his heels.

He said, "Son, I've made a life, out of readin' people's faces.
Knowin' what their cards were, by the way they held their eyes.
So if you don't mind my sayin', I can see you're out of aces."
The Gambler - Kenny Rogers

Chapter 56 - One Throw of The Dice
August 19, 1947
Jacks Or Better
      "You don't know?" Asuka had shouted at Shinji as they walked
through the corridors of NERV.
      Why does she take it so seriously? he'd wondered.
      "I don't think she has one," he'd explained to the boiling
redhead, "Or she associates one with her surroundings and what
she's doing."
      Asuka had stopped walking and waving her arms, and had
stared at him, setting him squirming.  "You realize that makes
absolutely no sense at all?" she'd asked irefully.
      He'd sneezed in response.
      "Are you getting sick?  Or is she talking about you?  I
thought germs wouldn't pick on anyone as pathetic as you.  No
sport in it."
      Ha, ha, he'd thought.  "Just a reaction to Misato-san's
fried sausages.  My nose started running when I smelled them, and
they burned my mouth even _after_ they cooled off."
--------------------
      He shook his head, banishing the memory and returning to the
here and now.  As if this place didn't mean far more than I'm
comfortable with, Shinji considered as he looked at the two other
people with him, Why isn't _he_ bothered by this place?  Or is it
he just doesn't _seem_ to be bothered?  Playing a role of calm
competence, a reassurance the rest of us require?
      "You have to hurry," Shinji told Jeff as they stood in the
throne room in dreams that also existed in concrete reality on
Yuggoth.  Both boys momentarily glanced at the chair Nabiki was
staring at.  "It bears her name."
      "I'll take your word for it," Jeff said, "We have hurried.
We'll be there in a few hours, not late tomorrow as planned.
What's got you so worried?"
      "I got sick," he paused to let that sink in, "Rei and Asuka
have a touch of it too.  They got hurt and ran through the
sewers, but I didn't.  Why am I the sickest?"
      "What's so frightening about that?" Nabiki asked as she
turned away, grateful for an excuse to turn away from the throne
and focus on the two boys instead.
      "I've never been sick," Shinji said, "Now . . . I shouldn't
_get_ sick.  Except they're talking about Pneumonia, Malaria or
Encephalitis."
      Nabiki fixed Jeff with a stare.  "You mean we don't have to
worry about diseases now either?" Nabiki asked worriedly as she
looked from one to the other.
      "Not diseases that only effect humans," Jeff replied, idly
tapping his lips with his walking stick, "It could be a
side-effect of contact with the Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath.
You were in close combat with them, and creating new life-forms
is her specialty."
      "Would she create a . . . germ?" Shinji asked with concern,
"Could the EVAs get sick?"
      "I doubt it," Jeff considered, "Unless the illness was
especially tailored to them, and you'd need a massive dose."
      "That's not a 'yes' or 'no'," Nabiki pointed out.
      "It's an 'I don't think it's practical'," Jeff replied as
she stood and looked around.
      "It could also be psychosomatic," Nabiki said as she stared
at Shinji, "You need rest, need to purge your system.  You didn't
get hurt like the others, so you could have made yourself sick."
Nabiki waved her hands at Shinji when she saw his discomfort at
her suggestion.  "You do worry about things too much."
      "Gee, thanks," Shinji replied as he stared at the floor, "I
could have gotten insulted by Asuka."
      "Well, I'm sorry!  Ranma hasn't been giving _me_ insult
lessons!" Nabiki let the two boys smirk at that before
continuing, "You want answers," Nabiki said, shrugged, "Not just
answers you like."
      "How soon will you get here?" Shinji asked, "After all
that's happened, Asuka and Rei-chan will want some cheering up."
      "Like I said, soon," Jeff assured him.
------------------------------
      "Admiral Adams," the talker reported, "Boxer reports we can
now launch for maximum range.  Boxer requests orders to bring all
aircraft on deck, fueled and fully armed."
      "Don't feel like Admiral Nagumo," Doctor Akagi told him from
her spot in the CIC, "By necessity, you have to deal with
differing threats."
      Adams nodded, remembering how Boxer's CO and CAG, Wasp's and
Bunker Hill's CO, and their staffs, had sweated over the load
outs and strike possibilities.  "Send to Boxer: Launch reinforced
CAP, prepare strike force Baker immediately, but I want the next
fighter reinforcements ready for immediate launch.  Emergency
landings on Bunker Hill, set Condition 2 throughout the group.
Light up the Boxer and the Bunker Hill.  Wasp and all escorts are
to remain dark."  He glanced at the crew of the CIC both NERV and
USN, lit by the glow of the radar screens and red lights of the
CIC.  "It will be light before anyone ashore can see us.  Might
as well make it easy on our boys."  Adams felt relieved at having
decided.  Baker gave him the widest set of options, but it also
meant the fewest aircraft optimized for any given action.
"Colonel Tyler, how are the Marines?"
      The CO of the battle group's Marine detachments answered,
"First to Fight, sir, all A.J. Squared Away.  Some of the -
auxiliaries - are a bit on the bloodthirsty side, but we've got
them if we need them."
      He nodded and left the CIC to climb to the flight deck.
There, he watched the darkness and the glow of the ships' wakes.
      No one likes the idea of sending wives and kids into harm's
way, but harm's way may come at them, Adams thought of the
carrier Wasp, invisible in the darkness and lagging far behind
the other two in the group, carrying the families to Japan, But
if that's what is necessary.  We do it with the EVA pilots all
the time.  I think the dose of reality did the service brats some
good.  Although I suspect some of them are going to want to sign
up as soon as they are old enough.  Sending the pilots over to
Wasp for a question and answer session certainly helped.
Although I'm not sure if some of the kids could report on
anything Davis or Tendo said.  Most were just staring at them
like a couple of movie stars.
      He watched the exhaust flame of the first aircraft racing
off the Boxer's deck and into the night, as the carriers began
turning on all their lights to guide them home.  He felt
strangely at peace.
------------------------------
      Nabiki jerked awake in her bunk.  She glanced over at the
clock.  It's pitch black in here, the clock doesn't glow, and I
can see it just fine, she thought frantically, What's happening
to me?
      She looked around the room, seeing into the corners better
than if she had been unchanged, and in a brightly lit room.  It's
0300, and I'm wide awake!  And ready to take on the world! she
thought in utter horror, Oh gods!  I've become a monster!  An
abomination!  I've become a . . . a . . .
"_A_MORNING_person_!_" she wailed.
------------------------------
      Ranma bounced from foot to foot, unconsciously moving
through Misato's living room in the most basic footwork kata.
      "Do you even fidget in Martial Arts?" Tomiyo asked in
amazement.
      Ranma paused, tugged on his pigtail as he considered.  "I'm
excited, that's all.  This is Mirei's first game as pitcher,"
Ranma explained, then got an Asuka-like gleam in his eye, "Don't
tell me that the only reason _you're_ going is that you traded
with Sammi."
      Now it was Tomiyo's turn to be embarrassed.  He refused to
look at the boy.  "She needed to talk to someone in private, so I
traded, because she knew you'd never sit still while she talked
for hours and hours."
      "So," Ranma said, glancing from Sammi to Tomiyo as he
smiled, "Tomiyo goes with me, and you stay here and watch the
sleeper?"  Ranma glanced from Tomiyo to Sammi, and shook his
head.  "Boring!"
      "Well, I figure you two will enjoy the ball game together,"
Sammi replied with a smile, "Who knows, maybe Shinji will wake
up."
      "I still think Rei let that thing off easy," Ranma said with
a frown.  I don't remember _anything_ after all those - _things_
- got dumped on me, until I woke up in Asuka's lap.  I'm lucky to
have gotten out of that alive!  I don't even know what happened
to that finger-necklace centipede-thing, Ranma thought, Did the
`Other` kill it?  _|GODS_!|_ Did the `Other` _|EAT|_ it?!  He
shook himself to dispel the images of that from his mind.
      Sammi shuddered.  "You didn't see her stomp on it."  Sammi
shook her head.  "Emotionless, don't you believe it!"
      "I think _we'd_ better be going," Tomiyo said, turning Ranma
towards the door of the apartment.
      "So, when's the wedding set?" Sammi teased.
      'Mirei's a nice girl, but she's awfully young,' Ranma
remembered Sammi teasing _him_ about the girl and her adoration.
He considered the rest of the month's events, As far as I'm
considered, Ranma thought, This entire month can be written off.
First Asuka, then Rei, now Shinji, I don't want to think about
what could happen to us next.   "At least Nab-chan and Raccoon
will be back."
      "Bunker Hill and her group get in tomorrow afternoon.
Although they'll offload Unit 04 almost immediately, I doubt
those two will be let off the ship until day after tomorrow,"
Sammi told them.
      "Why not just offload them with the EVA?" Ranma asked.
      "Security concerns," Sammi explained, "As well as a
debriefing on all that's gone on with their group and ours.  We
couldn't exactly send them a radio message of all that, or fly
you and the other out to the carrier."
      "Weird," Ranma complained.  Why not, or why not fly them
here?  It would certainly be as safe as everything _else_ that's
gone on lately.  I'd have both of them in the EVA's entry plug,
and debrief them right in NERV, in the EVA bay, where all the
pilots can see and talk to them, from inside _their_ EVAs, maybe
have Rei and Shinji double up.   Ranma considered his feelings,
and all he and `Ranko` had talked about, I've got a lot I want to
talk about with them.
      "I thought Mirei was enamored of you," Sammi teased.
      "Not when she's playing," Ranma countered, then glanced at
Tomiyo, wondering if Sammi had been teasing him too.
      "You just want to talk to Nab-chan again, or is it Ranko
wants to talk to Raccoon?" Sammi asked, a picture of innocence,
"I think it's sweet."
      Ranma growled at the teasing, mainly because he didn't know
for certain himself, and _that_ was embarrassing.  Ranko said it
wasn't romantic, and you can't lie to yourself, can you? Ranma
wondered, But she wants a lot more than a conversation with him.
He considered the description of the Nerima dreams that Asuka and
Raccoon had had, and all the reports of the Azores-to-San Diego
mission, I guess everyone is a little jumpy.  I think I just want
to know everyone is safe, and we're together again.
      Ranma glared at the smiling man.  "Let's get going.  How
come I couldn't go to school, but I can go to the game?"  He'd
enjoyed not going to school, but the seeming inconsistency grated
on him.
      "Whatever bug Shinji and Asuka picked up, we didn't want to
spread it to the entire class," Tomiyo explained.
      "Kids go to school sick all the time," Ranma countered.
      "Not pilots, have you ever known any of you to get sick?"
Sammi asked.
      Ranma thought for a moment, then frowned.  "Agh," Ranma said
as he shook himself, "Mythos germs."
      "Exactly."  Tomiyo tried to turn him back towards the door.
      Ranma faced Sammi.  "So . . . how can I go to the game?"
Ranma persisted.
      "Because it's an hour or two out in the open under the
bright sunlight, not six hours cooped up in a room together,"
Tomiyo replied, "And _you_ haven't shown any symptoms."
      Ranma nodded as he headed out the door.  I wish I could just
ride my bike there, but security is still itching about events,
he thought of the creature his `Other` had crippled and then Rei
had killed, She's healing up pretty fast.  I'd hoped I could
visit her, and see if she's making progress.  But they said 'no'.
Getting healthy, and see how fast she's gotten.  That triggered
another question.  "Tendo-kun, what would you say is Raccoon's
most dominant characteristic, and Asuka-chan's."
      "Both -?  Talking!"
      Ranma blinked, and briefly considered a martial art based on
that, and got a horrifying image of men and women who could put
_anything_ in their mouths.  He shook his head to dispel the vile
image.  "I mean how they fight, and Nab-chan too."
      "What they have in common, or each separately?"
      "What each has," Ranma said as he watched the older man
consider.
------------------------------
      Asuka looked around her room and snuffled, both from the
cold or flu she'd gotten, and from the fact all her planning was
for nothing.  Stupid Shinji, she thought, sniffled again, If he
hadn't come down with this . . . whatever, we'd be finishing up
with the plan.
      She flopped on her bed and sniffed again, feeling put upon
and angry, also glad the cold gave her an excuse to sniffle and
mope, and nobody could prove it was only because she felt bad
emotionally.  "I try and do one nice thing for Wondergirl, a
stupid birthday party, and the universe plots against me," she
muttered angrily, "Figures, Horseface is immune and can go and do
what he wants."
      She walked out of her room, noted that Juri was waiting in
the downstairs living room.  Another memory I can't . . . God in
Heaven!  She's only been gone a couple of days, and I've nearly
forgotten . . . Erin's name!  I really am thoughtless, she
thought.
      Juri looked up from her book.  "You should be in bed," she
chided Asuka.
      "I'm bored.  I've read everything.  Horseface is at a
baseball game, Spineless is in bed, Wondergirl is doing whatever
she does.  There's nothing good on the radio . . . "
      "How about you have a little cheese with that whine?" Juri
asked, "You got a mild case.  Shinji's practically unconscious in
bed.  Aren't you really feeling put upon that the Commander
canceled your party plans?"
      Asuka growled and returned to her room, closing, not
slamming, the door behind her.  Of course that's what's bothering
me! she seethed, I can't owe Wondergirl, I have to at least _try_
to pay her back!  Now, I can't.  She thought as she blew her nose
and then threw herself on the bed.  "It's not fair."
------------------------------
      Rei coughed slightly, despising everything about being sick.
I do not believe the Fourth's Martial Arts training was intended
to trick me into expending all my healing powers, leaving all of
the Children vulnerable, Rei thought as she blew her nose, That
he seems immune to the effect does raise questions.  Perhaps more
about his humanity than his intentions.
      Rei returned her attention to the Garand rifle and two boxes
of mixed rifle grenades someone had carefully placed on the
balcony outside her door.  Placed so that the security men could
not see the items or the deliverer.  Rei had used her increasing
ability to move quickly, to roll the grenades into her apartment
and began to check them over, as an armorer had shown her once
before.  I do not like deceiving the Commander's eyes and ears,
she thought as she finished reassembling the rifle she'd just
field stripped, carefully dripping oil on the last part as she
picked it off the bed sheet.  It seems odd.  The rifle is
ordinary.  It has not been sabotaged, nor has it been magically
enhanced.  So why would someone have delivered a completely
ordinary rifle, and all the grenades?  Their intentions cannot
have been hostile.
------------------------------
      Mirei tossed the ball to Ami, who threw it to Yoko, who
threw it back.  "Double play," she said.  She frowned,
considering, No one knows where Yuki-san went, but I get to
pitch.  I'll show them what I can do, she thought happily as she
put one of her sliders right through the strike zone.  "I'll show
Ranma-san too," she sighed, then noted that her father had
provided a few extra men.  I wish I could get my hands on the men
who hurt Asuka-chan and Ranma-san.  I'd do more than just stomp
on them with an EVA!
      "Hey, ease up!" her catcher raised her mask and complained,
shaking her hand, "Or save it for the game!"
      "Sorry about that," she bowed slightly and said, "I just
wish the others could come."
      "Ranma-san's coming," Yoko teased, "Just for _you_."
      Mirei blushed and shot the girl a venomous look.  There
isn't a death slow enough or painful enough to sentence someone
to, she thought, For teasing me about my Ranma-san.  "Let's
concentrate on the game!" Mirei shouted, "Without Yuki pitching,
we might even win this one from `her Highness`."
      Ami ran up to the pitcher's mound.  "Hey, careful talking
like that," Ami warned as she looked around for anyone who might
report the comment, "People who've talked like that have had bad
things happen to them."
      "I know people who make bad things happen," Mirei countered
darkly.  She'll cheat, or make people unpopular, Mirei thought,
Is that the best she can do?  My dad's people _kill_ people.
Ranma-san and his friends kill dark Kamis and gods!  What's Usagi
got to compare to that?  She saw Usagi and Tomoe walk onto the
field.  Mirei waved and smiled as she and her friends vacated the
field to let the queen and her little bees practice.
      "I hear Nabiki-san and Raccoon will be here tomorrow," Mirei
called cheerfully, "I just can't wait to meet them in person!  I
know you feel the same!"  And don't you look sour about that,
Mirei thought through her outward smile, I can't _wait_ to see
what happens when Nabiki-san gets here.
------------------------------
      Usagi looked over her team.  Without Ryuu and Kiki, and with
Tomoe playing catcher, Mirei and her brats might actually have a
chance of winning, she thought angrily, I can't believe the
pounding we got from Saotome in our sleep last night.  Until last
night, I thought he wasn't supposed to hit girls, but he really
opened up on us in our dreams, as if there was no tomorrow.  And
those claws!  It was like fighting a sabre-toothed tiger crossed
with a chainsaw!  Usagi didn't like secrets, she couldn't
understand why things had fallen apart so badly, why her string
of successes seemed to end so abruptly and she didn't know why
that building had crushed Ryuu.  Yuki survived the same thing,
but Ikari was the one who dropped the building on her, Saotome
never was powerful enough to take us on in dreams, Usagi wondered
about the events, wondered whether her guts would spill out, as
they had under Saotome's assault, So who or what was behind that
dream?  Has Tendo gotten close enough that _she's_ defending her
friends, and attacking us already?  What she did to Ryuu, I
didn't think Tendo was that . . . ruthless.
      She remembered getting the news that the girl had died in
her sleep, and her parents were quietly disposing of the body.
Death does not treat the Chosen kindly, she remembered, I'll need
an excuse for the girl's, and her family's, sudden departure.
"That's for after the game," she reminded herself.  She looked
over at Tomoe, who knew she'd get elevated, she just had to hear
Usagi actually ask.  That will be her glory . . . for a few days,
Usagi thought, Then things should return to normal.  Yuki's
position in the hierarchy also needs to be filled.  Tomoe is
completely inappropriate for such a position, although she
certainly doesn't seem to think so.   "Very well, you can play
catcher, but none of that nonsense of trying to smoke the ball
throwing it back to me, like last time."
      "I promise," Tomoe said with an evil gleam in her eye.
      Usagi didn't really believe her.
------------------------------
      "I'm sorry," Hiro said.  "What more do you want?" he asked
Sammi as they sat in Misato's living room.
      "That you worked for our enemies and you decided to switch
sides?" Sammi asked quietly, "And you think 'sorry' gets you out
of it and it squares things?"
      "I _never_ changed sides.  I was always supposed to be on
the pilots' side," Hiro replied with restrained force.
      "Have you told Misato?  Have you told _Ranma_?_" Sammi asked
angrily, "They should really know."
      "I will.  I . . . I haven't told Ranma because . . . I think
I know what they'll use it for."
      Sammi frowned, but restrained herself.  "I know very _well_
what they'll use it for!  There will be compatibility issues, but
they'll overcome them.  The same with Misato?" Sammi exclaimed.
      "Misato?  Then you know?!  They think no one knows!"
      "Quit evading the issue.  Does _|SHE|_ know about what you
are?" corrected, "Do the others know?"
      "What good would it do to tell them?" Hiro asked, glanced
back into Shinji's room, "Can you imagine how it would hurt him?"
      "You need to at least tell the Admiral," Sammi counseled,
"Someone needs to be ready to deal with it when the others learn
the truth about them."
      "I think Miss Langley will be the most alarmed.  No wonder
the Nazis made such a big deal about her.  First among equals,
and she isn't even one of them," Hiro said, then asked, "Do you
suppose they know?"
      Sammi shook her head.  "No.  I don't think they know.  The
truth be told, I don't think they'd _care_.  They have to know
Davis isn't one, as for Tendo . . . who knows.  Besides, how
would that change anything?  It's not like Rei and Shinji are
really blood relatives.  And, why Ranma, not Asuka, Davis or
Nabiki?"
      "Ranma has been judged to be more pliable, less strength of
will," Hiro replied, then held up his hands, "Don't ask, I don't
know how they came to that conclusion. It makes no sense to me
either.  All the pilots are strong-willed, that's one reason you
have Shinji and not Toji or Hikari as your back up to Rei and
Asuka."
      Sammi sighed and looked into Shinji's room.  "They aren't
going to have an easy future, are they?"
      "I rather doubt it.  It's not just the Outer Gods and the
Great Old Ones, the Elder Gods won't like the competition, and
like SEELE, there will be human enemies and exploiters.  I doubt
any of them will live a happy life."
      Sammi glanced at Hiro, then looked at her own hands as she
clenched and unclenched her fists.  "Monsters guarding monsters
from monsters.  Which approaches the ideals of Humanity?  The
monster-born who will never be, or the human-born who wishes
otherwise?"
      "My question is, who is the real monster?" Hiro asked, "Us
who ape Humanity, the pilots who lose theirs to protect others'?
Or the humans who'd gladly see it all burnt on a pyre to fuel
their own ambitions?"
      "Depends on who you ask," Sammi replied, "I don't see what
SEELE hopes to get out of it."
      Hiro laughed.  "That's easy.  They intend to offer sacrifice
to convince Yog-Sothoth to make them Ancient Ones, who will guard
the Ultimate Gate.  It's no more complicated than that," he said,
his voice thick with hatred and disdain, "The Russo-German war
was their plan, between National Socialism and Communist
Socialism.  They thought the sacrifice of 10 to 20 million lives
would get his attention and prove that humanity had no right to
survive.  Except another group had a similar plan they launched
between India, Russia, China and Japan."  He interlaced his
fingers.  "The plans merged and suddenly no one had a firm grasp
on any of it."
      "Idiots," Sammi said, shaking her head, "Make the Stars
Right for a season, and send the human race down to screaming
madness.  None of it makes an ounce of sense. Why not make
yourself immortal, and just wait it out?  That's what a lot of
the Serpent Men have done."
      "Maybe the Serpent Men are more patient.  Maybe they do what
they do to placate and honor Yig.  SEELE and their helpers
worship nothing but themselves, and everything flows back to
their ambitions.  Nyarlathotep just _loves_ them," Hiro said with
a scowl.
      "So much for the Elder Gods as the friends of humanity,
light and hope," Sammi said despondently, leaning back and
covering her face with her hands, "A bunch of fractured kids, the
pilots, are all that really stand in their way."
      "No," Hiro said, "We do too, and a lot of humans."
      "I hope you're right," Sammi sat up and told him.
------------------------------
      Ramsey watched as Simson paced in his office.  The Captain
knew that when a 3-star paces like an angry tiger, you say 'Yes,
sir', and you keep your head down.
      " 'Conduct unbecoming' . . . that's the first time _anyone_
used those words in relation to me."
      "It was only a personal," Ramsey said carefully, "And
_private_ reprimand, nothing official."
      "At ease, Captain.  You're making me nervous."
      Ramsey moved his feet the proscribed distance apart, however
nothing else about his posture or wariness changed.
      "What was I supposed to do?  When a ship is doomed, you
transfer your Flag. I needed to be able to direct the action.  I
was better able to do that from the EVA."  He paused in mid-pace.
"Remind me to ask the kids about the counter-counter-measures
those communication suites use."
      "Yes, sir," Ramsey didn't let his revulsion at the thought
of being in an EVA, for any reason, show.
      " 'Conduct unbecoming a General Officer!'" Simson repeated
as he prepared to begin pacing again.
      "Sir . . . we do have the meeting with the rest of the staff
and the outside consultants, about security."  Ramsey wished he
could be _anywhere_ else.
      Simson stared at him angrily.  "Don't remind me.  What are
_we_ going to do, when an enemy can perfectly impersonate anyone
- or anything."
      "Miss Ayanami saw to that, sir."
      Simson smiled at the memory.  "Did you scrape it off Unit
00's feet, or hose it off?"
      "Scraped, sir.  It was liquid enough without diluting it
further."
      "Well, we can go to the meeting, let everyone know," he said
and gave a mirthless laugh, "Maybe when Admiral Adams gets here,
they'll give him a promotion, and my job."
      "From what I've heard, sir," Ramsey offered, "He wouldn't
want it."
------------------------------
      She caught the ball, and there was a stinging pain.  Usagi
frowned at the reminder, one on a long list of things bothering
her.  She glanced at her glove, flexed her fingers.  The nail was
always a little discolored, and it always looked different from
my other fingers, she thought of the Goddess's replacement for
her loyal acolyte's sacrifice, But the nail never turned black
before, and the finger never became so stiff and sore.  We all
felt the Goddess's gift die, is this her punishment?  Does she
think we've reneged on our `contract`, abandoned our devotion?
she fumed inwardly, The idiotic action Yuki took, set all these
events into motion, and makes any further action on my part
impossible.  I'll have to _start_ with Tendo-san, when she
arrives.  If I play it right, after all that has happened to
Langley-san, a change of heart won't be so hard to believe.  If I
can sell it, and convince 'Ice Princess.'  Usagi was still lost
in thought, when another twinge from her finger brought her
around.  She saw Tomoe had approached the mound.
      "Get your mind on the game," Tomoe reminded her, as she
pushed up the catcher's mask, "There's nothing to be done about
tomorrow.  If the stories are correct, then she'll be a pushover
to a 'I've repented' sob story.  She likes having people under
her authority.  In the meantime, let's win this game."  Tomoe
smiled as she looked around.  "Can you imagine what will happen
if just the rumors of her highness' return, gave those losers the
strength to beat us?"
      Usagi growled at her giggling sister.  That would just make
things perfect.  People already drawing strength through their
worship and adulation, Usagi thought, As if they were already on
par with the Goddess.  Another twinge brought her out of her
thoughts.  "You have a very sick mind," Usagi told Tomoe, who
grinned maniacally, until a twinge of her own broke through.
      "Boss," Harumi asked as the approached the mound, also
shaking and flexing her hand.  "Have you noticed _all_ the extra
people in the stands?"
      "NERV security," Usagi dismissed the girl's concerns, "After
everything, can you blame them?"
      "No," Harumi said sternly, in a tone she never would have
dared use a month ago, "Fans of the pilots.  Families, military,
all ages.  They are here because the pilots are going to be
here."
      Usagi felt her blood run cold, her dismissal of Tomoe's joke
a few moments ago.  They _do_ have worshipers! she realized as
she scanned the stands, We had assumed . . . I assumed we would
have time.  Now . . . we have a greater problem.  "All that means
is greater glory for - her - when they are won over to our
cause," Usagi said confidently, trying to hide her own growing
uncertainty, "Now do you see why I wanted them to join us
freely?"
      Harumi nodded, smiled knowingly.  "Of course, Usagi-sama.  I
shouldn't have doubted you."
      "No, you shouldn't have," Usagi chastened, "I am willing to
overlook it, if you work diligently."
      "Yes, I shall."  Harumi shook her hand again and frowned.
"Just numbness, it comes and goes.  With a sharp pain at the
beginning and end."  Then she ran to take her place on the field.
      "What a brown noser," Tomoe commented about their third
baseman, "Don't think she isn't planning to worship by throwing
herself at Tendo's feet once she sets foot in Japan."
      "We will need lesser and greater people, and an ally in her
camp would be useful.  It is good Harumi will be happy as such a
servant, and bask in the adoration of her betters, and the
Goddess."
      "Now who's dreaming?" Tomoe muttered as she walked towards
homeplate.
      Even Tomoe doubts our victory, doubts the power of the
Goddess, she thought as she looked around, seeing the military
vehicles moving in the distance, patrolling the outskirts of the
field.  Even I feel the emptiness at the destruction of the
Goddess's gift, and the withdrawal of her favor.  But we _have_
her Young.  Usagi smiled.  "And her Chosen One."  She smiled at
that thought, and put the sting of jealousy about Yuki's blessing
in proper perspective.
------------------------------
Hole Cards
      Jamie looked as her fellow servants, who swelled the ranks
of the attendees.  She noted that Mihiro had not divested herself
of her traditional clothing or manners.  By the One who are now
Two!  She even brought a boxed lunch for me and my `dad`! she
thought of her self-appointed aide-de-camp.
      "It's good to see _someone_ has some manners," the
lieutenant said, bowing slightly at the proffered gift.
      Maybe you should marry him.  Jamie frowned, but ignored
Mihiro's demure smile, instead greeting Eriko and several of the
others.  It would improve our cover, and her documents say she's
of age in Japan.
      "It's good to see that someone is finally taking on that
bunch," Eriko said, taking a seat near them.  "I heard Ranma-sama
is coming to see the game.  I hope the security is up to the job.
If Mirei-san wins, Usagi and company will probably try to kill
her."
      "That's _not_ funny," Jamie said glumly.
      "It wasn't meant to be," Eriko said, as she stared at the
game, "The power struggle among the various factions must be
decided today, before Nabiki-san and Davis-san return.  The cults
are going to have to decide as well.  We know they know more than
they are telling ONI."
      "Once they return, they can unite a core of the factions
into the new dominant group," Mihiro said with a cultured
chuckle, "It seems that Nabiki is finally one of them in truth.
Chaugnar Faugh divided between the two, and you all remember what
a trouble maker _he_ used to be.  Perfect for those two, making
ripples just to keep things stirred up."  She let the others
laugh at the possibilities.
      As the others laughed, Jamie's `dad` was left looking and
feeling confused.
      "It would make more sense if you'd actually lived through
it," Jamie explained to the man, "Imagine Henry Ford and Andrew
Carnegie rolled up with Daffy and Donald Duck, thinking they're
Bela Lugosi."
      "I just want to know what I should be concerned about," he
replied, clearly not able to grasp the concept.
      "Nothing, at the moment," Jamie replied, then looked at a
boy whispering something to Eriko, who couldn't believe what she
was hearing.  "What's all that about?"
      "Gendo's secret plan, you won't believe it either," Eriko
said wide-eyed, then leaned close to tell Jamie.
------------------------------
      Gendo glanced at those around the meeting table.  Only
MacArthur's staff and his Majesty are missing, he thought of
Ramsey, Simson, Tomlinson, himself, Kozu, Kaji, the head of the
Tokyo Police, heads of the various military Intelligence
agencies, representatives of certain  unnamed American agencies,
and all their spear-carriers and dog-robbers lining the walls,
serving coffee, whispering warnings and messages to their
masters.  No wonder SEELE meets virtually.  Their members would
never stomach the war of egos going on here, he thought, And each
would like it even less, when they lost a battle.
      "As you've all been briefed," Simson began, "This creature,
called 'The Twins', managed to penetrate the most secure
facilities, and impersonate me, to withdraw the outer perimeter
security forces guarding the Children.  If not for some timely
and unexpected interventions, it could have been a disaster."  He
looked around at the men.  "I am not expecting this meeting to
produce a new and revolutionary security system.  However, I do
expect you will form action groups within your agencies to secure
both your orders and chains of command from usurpation by outside
forces."
      Gendo had scanned the presentation.  Nothing we did, not
passwords, not locks, nothing kept that thing out, Gendo angrily
thought, We've been depending too much on the dubious protection
of their refusal to work within our systems.  But we can no
longer make such heart-warming assumptions.  They will now deign
to use our own methodologies to destroy us.
------------------------------
      He woke with a screaming shout.
      For an instant, he didn't remember whether he had fallen
asleep to escape reality, or if he'd been awakened from a
nightmare into reality.  Jean's arm around his chest made him
decide he preferred _this_ reality.
      "The dreams again, old friend?" she asked her lover of more
than 10 years.
      "Yes, I -"
      The door burst open, admitting into the room, a man with a
Sten gun, and a willingness to use it.  He and Jean frowned at
the massive man, who promptly frowned back.  "Francois, if you do
not wish me to charge to your rescue, please do not awaken us
with the howlings of Hell itself."  The big man turned and pulled
the door closed after him.  Leaving the pair alone.
      He felt Jean's fingers idly playing with his hair.
"Francois, will you at least tell me now what the dream is?" she
asked.
      "It is the same as it always has been.  The pilots are in
England, one of them discovers something they should not, and the
British Tommies sent to `guard` them, gun them down.  Separately,
but at the same moment."
      "For the British Operation Catapult, and my father and
brother . . . I cannot love them.  But the pilots?  Why would
they be so mad?  Discover what secret?  Steal the EVAs?  They
don't have the pilots to operate them."
      "That was the dream, some fight, some receive a premonition,
but all are cut down eventually.  I have never seen what they
discover.  I do know they don't recognize it if they do discover
it."
      "Are the pilots even coming to England?"
      "Ask the Section Chief," he told her, "When we go in today."
      Jean sighed and flopped back onto the bed, pulling a
cigarette from the bedside table.  She lit it, and practically
smoked the entire thing with one angry drag.  "Tiresome girl . .
. " she said as she exhaled a cloud of smoke, "Marie, she is well
named.  She _would_ say 'Let them eat cake', and mean it."  She
turned slightly to look at him.  "Are the others so troublesome?
I met Miss Langley, when she was held by the British, and I
trying to discover how to repair our unit.  She was the typical,
clever, little Boche.  Always eager and willing to help her
inferiors with how clever she was.  Charming in that a
12-year-old could be so chidingly patrician.  Damnable thing was,
she was right, _all_ the time."
      He let her stay in her memories, he too had met the girl,
and found her charming and ingratiating.  It helped I could
discuss music at her level, which Jean could not, he thought, So
I was _obviously_ not an idiot, just not as clever as she.
"Davis . . . is an American."
      Both chuckled at that.
      "The rest are Japs, what could they be otherwise?"  He had
no way to judge them.
      "Go back to sleep.  We can be depressed about this
tomorrow," she told him as she crushed out her cigarette and
closed her eyes.
      He watched her sleep for a time, before he could relax
enough to fall asleep again.
--------------------



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